The Daily Mail revealed in December 2015 (a very busy month in terms of publishing new robot inventions, while most people were busy doing other things, such as preparing for Christmas) that Columbia University has developed a biochip (both biological and mechanical) for the first time. No longer are robots only able to excel in their self-learning process, they will also be able to taste and smell with what they call “a new generation of ‘cyborgs.’” [Daily Mail, Dec. 7, 2015, "Researchers unveil first biologically powered 'cyborg' computer chip and say it could be able to taste and smell"] The developers state that with technological components only, they can’t produce a chip that, when attached to the final component (such as a robot), can taste and smell. Hence, by adding a biological component to the mix, the problem is solved! Thus far, we now have robots that can learn much quicker than infants do, and the technology is there for them to be able to taste and smell just as humans at all ages do.
Here is a sobering statement from Ken Shepard of Columbia University:
By performing this on a molecular level, scientists were able to isolate the desired function and interface this with electronics.
'We don't need the whole cell,' Shepard explains.
'We just grab the component of the cell that's doing what we want.'
'For this project, we isolated the ATPases because they were the proteins that allowed us to extract energy from ATP.'
The ability to build a system that combines the power of solid-state electronics with the capabilities of biological components has great promise.
'You need a bomb-sniffing dog now, but if you can take just the part of the dog that is useful -- the molecules that are doing the sensing -- we wouldn't need the whole animal,' says Shepard. [Ibid. op. cit.]
It is very disturbing when this technology is in the wrong hands (which of course it is) because scientists can now isolate parts of a cell with a certain function and add it into a mix of other cell parts with other functions and build whatever they want, and whatever that might be at the moment, it probably will supersede anything that’s human. I think the reader gets the picture; if this would continue, it’s not so strange that Dr. Kurzweil set the year 2045 for the year of the Singularity. It almost feels as if he was generous when he gave us that time frame, as if he just wants to be on the safe side.
Next page: For Robots, Learning is a Group Activity